If you are a chili pepper grower who enjoys the hottest pepper, you can grow the Ghost pepper plant. Ghost peppers are the favorite of those who want a high kick and a bigger burn.
Here are the detailed basic facts for growing, planting, caring for, and harvesting the ghost pepper. It’s all you ever wanted to know and more!
How to Grow a Ghost Pepper Plant
The Ghost pepper plant is a fussy plant to grow but is possible to grow at home, and here we show you how in great detail.
1. Growing Conditions for the Ghost Pepper Plant
Growing a Ghost pepper plant is more complicated than growing other hot pepper plants.
Where to Grow
The hotter and more humid it is, the better it is for recreating the native Indian environment to which the Ghost pepper plants are familiar.
You can grow your Ghost pepper plant indoors or outdoors.
When to Grow
Ghost pepper plants have a long growing period. It is, therefore, best to start the seeds indoors 8 to 12 weeks before the last spring frost date. When planting outdoors, make sure the nighttime temperature is above 600F.
Your Ghost pepper plant will prefer loamy, well-drained soil. The soil should also be slightly acidic with 6.0- 6.8 pH. It is also best to add some organic matter (compost) into the ground at the beginning of the growing season.
Your Ghost pepper plant will require bright, direct sunlight during its four-give-month growing period. Your plant should get at least 6 hours of full sunlight every day.
When growing your plant indoors, you should supplement natural light with grow lights (artificial lights that help indoor plants grow).
Temperature and Humidity
Your Ghost pepper plant will be fussy about temperature and humidity conditions.
During the three months or longer growing season, the temperature should be above 700F with high humidity. Your plant will love extreme heat and humidity for 4 to 5 months of the growing season.
Your plant drops its flowers and stops thriving when exposed to cold periods and rapid changes in temperature, especially sudden drops. A temperature drop of below 700 will kill your plant.
On the other hand, high temperatures above 900 will cause the plant’s flowers to fall, which means it may not bear fruits.
2. Planting Ghost Pepper Plants
Your Ghost pepper plant is perennial in hot, humid climates and an annual in cooler climates. It is a slow-growing plant and is best planted in the Spring.
The spot you choose to grow your Ghost pepper plant should have enough space to house the seedlings. If you are growing Ghost peppers indoors, you should have enough room for a larger plant that may not yet be ready to be transferred outside.
- Your Ghost pepper plant has a long growing season. It can take about 150 days from the time of planting before you can harvest some Ghost peppers.
- Start seeds indoors about 8 to 10 weeks before the last frost date in your area. You must soak the seeds in water overnight before planting.
- Ghost peppers have a long germination time. They sprout after 35 days, just like other hot peppers.
- You can start seeds eight weeks before moving your plant outdoors.
- Fill your trays with potting soil and sow seeds about 1/4 inch deep.
- Transfer the trays to a sunny windowsill after germination or you can use grow lights. You can place the grow lights about two to three inches above the sprouts.
- Make sure always to keep the soil moist but avoid overwatering.
In time, you will have to transplant your Ghost pepper plant. Your seedlings are ready for transplanting when they are about four to six inches tall. This should be about 6 to 8 weeks after germination. You can transplant them into a pot/container or your garden.
If you are going to grow your plant in a pot/container, choose one that is about 8 inches deep and 11 inches wide.
If you are transplanting outdoors, do so after the last frost. You need to harden off the seedlings before moving them outdoors.
Allow your plant to adjust outdoors slowly. Start by placing your plant in a sunny but sheltered area in your garden for a few hours each day. Gradually increase the number of times you place your plant outside.
3. Caring for Ghost Peppers
Your Ghost pepper plant needs a lot of care to ensure a good harvest.
You should make sure to keep the soil moist, especially when blooms start showing up. Avoid wetting the leaves.
Generally, the top two inches of the soil should be dry before watering your plant. This should be about two times per week when there is little rainfall.
You need to have a regular watering schedule; otherwise, you can shock your Ghost water plant. Lack of moisture can also limit the production of fruits.
Apply balanced fertilizer to your Ghost pepper plant immediately after your Ghost pepper seedlings form their first true leaves. This should be about two weeks after sprouting. Start off with a 1/4 to 1/2 strength fertilizer.
Apply fertilizer two more times throughout the growing season. This plant is sensitive and should not be overfed.
Use a fertilizer that is high in potassium. Your plant needs potassium for the maximum growth of fruits. Avoid using fertilizers with high nitrogen contents because it can cause your plant to grow lots of foliage but little or no fruit.
Add fertilizer about four inches from the side of the plant’s stems.
You may or may not prune your Ghost pepper plant. Many chili growers recommend that you do bottom pruning to protect your plant from pathogens in the soil.
- Ghost pepper plants pollinate with the help of the wind and animals. You can also propagate your Ghost pepper plant via stem cuttings.
- Propagating Ghost pepper plants via stem cuttings will not always be successful, but it is an inexpensive and preferable way of cloning a plant.
- Late Spring to early summer is the best time to get some stem cuttings. This is when your plant is actively growing and before it is growing fruits.
- The cut should be about 4 to 6 inches from a healthy stem. The lower half of the branch should be free of any foliage and flower buds. Dip the cut end in rooting hormone before planting it in moist soilless potting mix.
- Commercial rooting hormones are available in liquid, gel, or powder form. You can also make homemade rooting hormone with apple cider vinegar, aloe Vera, aspirin, honey, or willow water.
- Make sure to keep it in a bright, warm spot. Make sure, too, that the growing medium is moist but not soggy. New roots should start to grow from out of your cutting in about three weeks.
- You can also opt to plant Ghost pepper seeds.
- Ghost pepper seeds are often not readily available from garden centers. You can harvest seeds from your Ghost pepper plant for next year’s crop.
- After harvesting, dry some of your Ghost peppers in a cool, dark, and dry area.
- When they are dry wear a pair of gloves and break open each Ghost pepper.
- Scrape the seeds inside the fruit.
- Dull white seeds are mature seeds that are difficult to plant. The glossy, bright white seeds are immature seeds ideal for planting.
- Soak the seeds in a bowl of lukewarm water for about three days. After the seeds have hydrated, you can start planting them.
- You can also opt to save some Ghost pepper seeds. They can still be worth planting after several years if stored properly.
- Dry the seeds for several days after removing them from the fruit and store them in an air-tight container.
Your Ghost pepper plant will be prone to several pests when grown indoors and outdoors. While some pests do not bother hot pepper, other pests can infest your plant regardless of the heat and flavor.
You must know what pests are munching on your Ghost pepper plant to eliminate them. These pests can be aphids, spider mites, and slugs.
You can remove aphids , tiny insects that hide beneath the leaves of your plant, and slugs by hand. Spider mites, though, are more difficult to get rid of.
You can spray your plant with a mixture of two teaspoons of neem oil, one teaspoon Castile soap, and one-quart warm water. You can spray your plant with this mixture from top to bottom.
Companion planting can also limit your pest problems. Carrots, radishes, cucumbers, squash, eggplant, chard, lettuce, and spinach are some plants that do well when planted close to hot peppers.
Avoid planting beans, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, kale, collard greens, and turnips near your Ghost pepper plant.
Your Ghost pepper plant will be susceptible to common fungal and bacterial diseases such as powdery mildew and bacterial leaf spot.
White powder on the underside and yellow blotches on the top of your plant’s leaves means your Ghost pepper plant has been infected with powdery mildew.
You can treat powdery mildew by liberally spraying your plant with a mixture of one tablespoon of baking soda, one-half teaspoon of liquid soap, and one gallon of water.
Lesions on the leaves of your Ghost pepper plant are most likely bacterial leaf spots. The spots first appear on the lower leaves and move on to the fruits causing cracks and spots.
You can prevent bacterial leaf spots by rotating your crops every year.
You can water your plant using a soaker hose so the soil does not splatter on the foliage.
Your Ghost pepper plant can also suffer from magnesium deficiency and may produce several blooms but dew pepper fruits. You can remedy the magnesium deficiency of your plant by spraying it directly with a solution of one tablespoon of Epsom salts dissolved in water.
Regular inspections to catch the issues of your Ghost pepper plant are the best way of growing a healthy plant. It is also best to treat diseases of your plan with organic remedies to maintain the edibility of your pepper fruits.
4. Harvesting Ghost Peppers
Ghost pepper plants have a long growing season. Under the right conditions, you can start harvesting some fruits after about 90 days, but they will reach full maturity in 120 – 150 days.
Common Ghost peppers will begin green. They will slowly turn yellow and finally bright red.
Your Ghost peppers can stay green for a long time before they mature and turn bright red.
Your Ghost peppers are ready to harvest once they turn red and slightly wrinkled skin. You can also opt to harvest your Ghost peppers when their pods are about 2.5 to 3.5 inches long and about 1 to 2 inches wide at maturity.
You can also determine the harvest time of your Ghost peppers when depending on the variety, they have reached their final color (e.g. chocolate Ghost peppers have turned deep brown or peach Ghost peppers have ripened to a light peach color).
You can harvest your Ghost peppers at any stage of their growth but they will have a higher Scoville heat level when mature.
This is so because when mature the capsaicin compound increases its concentration.
Wear garden gloves when harvesting because the high capsaicin content of the Ghost peppers can harm your hands (chili burn). Use a knife or clippers to detach the Ghost peppers from the plant, leaving about an inch of the stem.
A healthy Ghost pepper plant should be about to produce about 100 peppers.
What is a Ghost Pepper?
The Ghost pepper has been around for centuries, but it was only in 2000 that it became known to the western world.
It was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records in 2007 as the “hottest pepper in the world.” The Carolina Reaper has since dethroned it.
It was the first hot pepper to measure over 1 million Scoville heat units SHU). The SHU of hot pepper is measured on the Scoville Scale based on its capsaicin (an active ingredient in chili peppers that is responsible for their spicy hot taste) content.
Ghost pepper or Bhut Jolokia is native to India. It is known by many names in different parts of India including Naga Morich, Bhut Jolokia, Bih Jolokia, U-Morok, Naga Jolokia, and Red Naga Chili.
In India, “Bhut Jolokia” literally means “Ghost pepper.
The Ghost pepper is a member of the Solanaceae family along with tomatoes, eggplants, and bell pepper.
The Ghost pepper is a perennial plant but is often grown as an annual. It grows well in areas within the USDA Hardiness Zones 8-11. It has been classified as a separate species (C. assamicum) in 2018.
A Ghost pepper plant can be up to 4 feet tall. When grown in pots or containers, they can only get to be 2 feet tall. The plant can have a spread from 1 to 2 feet.
All varieties of Ghost pepper plants come with a full canopy and large, broad green leaves. It has green stems as well. They have small to medium white flowers.
The Ghost pepper plant comes in many varieties, each having a different color. They also have different flavors and spice levels.
Red Ghost Pepper. Widely known and one of the hottest Ghost pepper varieties. It has pedant-shaped pods and a bumpy texture. It is typically 2.5 to 2.5 inches long.
This Ghost pepper starts off green and turns red upon maturity. It has a smoky flavor and a fruity aftertaste.
Yellow Ghost Pepper. Some say it is not as hot as the red Ghost pepper but still hotter than most chilies. Its pods start as green and turn yellow upon maturity. It tastes similar to red Ghost peppers.
Green Ghost Pepper. This is the younger version of the red Ghost pepper. It does not have the same heat level as the red variety but its strength builds up and remains as you eat it. It has a grassy flavor with floral and fruity notes.
Purple Ghost Pepper. This Ghost pepper variety has smaller pods. It carries the same flavor as the rest of the Ghost peppers but they are not as hot.
Some purple Ghost peppers may never turn purple. They start green and then turn red like a typical red Ghost pepper.
Peach Ghost Pepper. This is a natural mutation of the red Ghost pepper. It has longer pendant pods than other Ghost peppers. It is typically about 4 inches long with the largest getting to be about 6 inches.
The pods of the peach Ghost pepper start green and turn to a beautiful peach color. If you do not harvest them, they may turn orange on the vine.
They are not as hot as the red Ghost pepper but they also have a fruity aftertaste.
Chocolate Ghost Pepper. This variety has a long germination time. It takes about 6 weeks for this variety to germinate.
It comes with a tasty , smoky flavor. It is so aromatic, too. It has the same heat level as the red Ghost but a different sweet aftertaste.
White Ghost Pepper. This is a rare variety. It turns off-white during maturity, and has smooth skin without the usual bumps. It also has lots of heat with a citrus flavor.
Orange Ghost Pepper. This is the most prolific grower of all Ghost pepper varieties. It has the same heat level as the red Ghost peppers.
This Ghost pepper variety is the favorite choice for hot sauce because of its more pronounced citrus-like flavor.
The fruits of the Ghost pepper plant have a pod-like appearance with wrinkled skin and a pock-marked texture. The typical Ghost pepper plant has fruits that mature from green to red.
This hot pepper has a slow-building heat. You will experience the flavor for a few seconds – it has a smoky, earthy palate with a fruity aftertaste. Its heat can last for about 15 to 20 minutes in your mouth.
How to Overwinter Ghost Peppers
When you have been successful with your Ghost pepper plant, you would not want your plant to die during winter.
Ghost pepper plants will die when left outdoors in most areas in the United States. With the right indoor care, you can successfully overwinter your plant.
The goal of overwintering your Ghost pepper plant is to keep it alive!
It is best to start overwintering Ghost peppers that are growing in pots to avoid disturbing their roots, and therefore, the risk of failure.
If your healthy and strong Ghost pepper plants are grown in the ground, dig them up and transplant them into large containers. Make sure to take as much of their original root ball as possible.
Your goal is to reduce the top growth by 1/2 to 3/4 to allow for the foreseeable loss of roots.
If you are growing your Ghost pepper plant in a pot or container, prune it so it will fit the space where you are going to overwinter it. Use clean shears to cut just above a bud.
Through Fall, the stems of your plant will further die. This is normal. Prune them to where the stems are still green. It is also normal for the leaves to turn yellow and fall off.
Your Ghost pepper plant can be leafless all through winter and will again grow several leaves in the Spring.
Make sure to prune your plant to a manageable size in the pot before transferring it indoors.
Keep your overwintered pepper plant where it can remain comfortable above freezing. It may be on the windowsill and far away from heat sources. Place your plant on the sunniest windowsill in your home.
When overwintering your Ghost pepper plant, water it infrequently. Keep it barely moist with your potting mix, almost dry before watering.
Your plant should soak up the moisture during each watering session, but make sure excess water drains freely from the pot. The roots of your plant should not be always wet.
Your overwintered Ghost pepper plant will be prone to aphids when indoors. Wipe them off each time they resurface by spraying water or with a damp cloth.
Repot your plant with fresh compost and general-purpose organic fertilizer to give your plant a boost as it starts growing again. Repot your plant at about a month before the last frost.
Scrape off about 1- 2 inches of the old growing medium near the rootball and repot your plant in the same container or a slightly bigger container. Start watering your plant more often when you notice new growth.
When Spring comes, you can transfer your overwintered Ghost pepper plant outside. With better light levels and rising temperatures, your plant’s leaves will be thicker. It will develop new branches, too.
Start feeding again when you notice your plant producing flower buds. A liquid feed high in potassium will promote more flowering and fruiting.
If you have done overwintering correctly, your plant should grow fruits one month ahead of the other Ghost pepper plants sown just in Spring.
Ghost Pepper Plant Care Tips
1. The best way to grow your Ghost pepper plant is indoors where you can maintain the temperature at 750
2. Soak the seeds in hydrogen peroxide for one minute before planting to increase their chances of germination.
3. Regularly water your Ghost pepper plant. It is not a drought-tolerant plant, so keep the soil always moist.
4. Avoid overwatering your plant. A drench and overly soggy soil can lead to root rot.
5. Regularly apply fertilizer to your plant throughout the growing season to ensure the best harvest.
6. Avoid fertilizers that have high nitrogen content to prevent your Ghost pepper plant from growing more leaves and fewer peppers.
7. Watch out for pests getting into your plant. You can control them early by spraying your plant with water and natural insecticide (e.g. neem oil).
8. Place mulch around your plant to help retain moisture in the soil and prevent weeds’ growth.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do Ghost pepper plants regrow every year?
In hot, humid climates, the Ghost pepper plant is a perennial. In other areas (cooler climates), it is annual.
Being perennials, Ghost pepper plants return during the Spring growing new branches after being dormant during winter. Winterize or overwinter your Ghost pepper plant to allow them to survive the cold winter months and grow again in Spring.
Overwintering your Ghost pepper plants will allow them to survive winter and grow again in Spring and make your older plants grow larger hot peppers in greater quantities.
How long is the lifespan of a Ghost pepper plant
With proper care, most Ghost pepper plants can live for a few years.
Are Ghost pepper plant leaves edible
Yes. You can steam or sauté Ghost pepper leaves. They have the same flavor and consistency as spinach.
What is the Ghost pepper plant not producing fruits?
The weather , watering, and fertilizing are the most common reasons your Ghost pepper plant is not producing fruits. Make sure you are growing your plant in ideal conditions and give it the right care.
How long does it before you can harvest Ghost peppers?
It usually takes about 150 days from planting seeds to harvest time.
Storing and Preserving Ghost Peppers
Did you harvest too many Ghost peppers than you need? Ghost peppers can last for around 3 – 5 days when stored in your pantry or at room temperature. You can extend the shelf life of your hot peppers by storing them in the fridge or freezer.
Whole Ghost peppers can last in the fridge for 3-4 weeks and in the freezer for 4-6 months. On the other hand, Sliced Ghost peppers can last 2 hours at room temperature, 3-4 days in the fridge, and 4-6 months in the freezer.
You can maintain the flavor and freshness of your Ghost peppers by storing them in the fridge or freezer. Use a paper towel to dry your Ghost peppers before storing them.
After drying, place them inside a plastic bag and seal well.
Sealing the plastic bag will limit humidity and maintain the freshness of the Ghost peppers.
Place the sealed plastic bag in the crisper drawer of your fridge or freezer. Make sure your Ghost peppers do not touch any cold surfaces of the fridge because they may develop cold spots.
Your Ghosts peppers will show some physical signs of going bad such as:
- Its skin getting excessively wrinkled
- Furry or fuzzy mold near the stem
- Soft spots on the surface of the pepper
- Brown or dark spots
- Reduce spiciness
Throw away the Ghost peppers if you notice any of these signs.
How to Eat Ghost Peppers
Eat Ghost peppers very carefully. Ghost peppers are made into sauces and super hot powders. Fresh Ghost peppers are also used in cooking. Given that it is very hot, Ghost peppers are also a favorite in drunken dares and eating contests.
Popping a whole Ghost pepper in your mouth will soon make you feel like you are dying. But eating Ghost peppers can be good for you because they contain some health benefits.
Ghost peppers are low calorie, low fat, and contain some Vitamin C. Eating about 2 grams of Ghost peppers, which is not too uncomfortable, can provide about 4% of your recommended daily Vitamin C.
The capsaicin content of Ghost peppers may also be able to lower your blood sugar and cholesterol. It also contains antioxidants that can lower free radicals in your body to protect you from some illnesses.
Eating Ghost peppers or any spicy food can also boost your metabolism and, thus help you lose some weight. If you have a sinus infection, the heat of Ghost peppers can clear your nasal passages.
Of course, Ghost peppers have their culinary uses. If you can handle the heat, you can enjoy Ghost peppers with your favorite recipes. You can chop some Ghost peppers and add them to your marinades, stir-fries, and salsas.
You can also use Ghost peppers for making hot sauces and pepper powders. Pickled Ghost peppers are great, although the pickling process reduces their spiciness.
Ghost Pepper Hot Sauce
Ghost pepper hot sauces are extremely popular and there are several ways and limitless recipes to make them. There are hot sauce kits you can buy. This kit contains everything you need to make your own hot sauce including funnels, bottles, etc.
Homemade Ghost pepper hot sauces become hotter a few weeks after you make them. As the days go by, the peppers in your sauce mature and meld. So even if you know your sauce is hot, take extra caution with your concoction.
Ghost Pepper Powder
You can make Ghost pepper powder by dehydrating the peppers and grinding them up. You can dry up the peppers with a dehydrator and use a grinder pr mortar and pestle to grind them up.
You can add the powder directly while cooking or mix it with your seasonings.
Remember that Ghost peppers are scorching so you need to use a mask and goggles to protect yourself. Intense fumes are also being released during dehydration, so make sure there is enough airflow. Better yet, do the dehydration in your garage or some other area.
As for your grinder, use it only for your hot peppers. Do not attempt to use it for something else, like coffee, because you will get a lot of heat in your cup of coffee.
Cooking with Ghost Peppers
Do not be overconfident with Ghost peppers even if you like spicy food. If you think the Habanero pepper is intensely hot, Ghost peppers are about 10 times hotter.
If you are new to cooking with Ghost peppers, try them off first with simple recipes to better understand their flavor and heat.
Ghost peppers are slow-burning, and the heat builds up over time. Simple recipes will allow you to learn the right proportions of Ghost peppers against other ingredients.
Start with under-spicing your recipe and add a little bit more at a time. If you overspice with Ghost peppers, you may end up with an inedible dish.
Final Thoughts on the Ghost Pepper Plant
Ghost peppers are more challenging to find in grocery stores than other hot peppers. So, growing Ghost peppers at home will give you plenty of enjoyable, super-hot peppers that are readily available.
Planting a Ghost pepper plant indoors or outside will ensure you have a fresh supply of Ghost peppers throughout the year.
A Ghost pepper plant has a long growing season. The wait will be worth it because you can harvest up to 100 Ghost peppers in just one plant once they mature.
You can successfully grow your Ghost pepper plant as an annual in most parts of the United States. Overwintering your plant allows you to maintain it as a perennial.
With the right growing conditions and care, you can enjoy your home-grown Ghost peppers for years to come.